ERA 2 << Early Church (2): Stability (AD 300–600) >> SESSION 1
Reference: Gonzalez, volume 1, chapters 13-15
Rivals: When the Edict of Toleration was
proclaimed , there were many rival emperors:
wars between his rivals, only Licinius was left to rule the eastern empire but
he was vastly weakened. When the war broke out ,
decision for a new capital appeared to be a wise one as the western empire,
actions: He seemed to think that the Unconquered Sun and the
Christian God were compatible; occasionally, he would consult the oracle of
Apollo, and accept the pagan title of High Priest. So he did not suppress
paganism. The two great centres of learning, the
in favour of Christians:
† 5.1.3 Julian the Apostate
Reversal: Julian was the son of a
· Restore paganism: Julian sought to restore the lost glory of paganism. He ordered that everything that had been taken from the pagan temples was to be returned. He organized the pagan priesthood into a hierarchy similar to the church, with an archpriest in each region of the empire. Julian himself was the supreme priest. He organized massive pagan sacrifices.
· Impede Christianity: Julian tried to impede the progress of Christianity. He never decreed persecutions against Christians. Some Christians were killed due to mob actions or to overzealous local officials. But Julian passed laws forbidding Christians to teach classical literature, thus keeping them from spreading the faith. He also set out to ridicule Christians, whom he called “Galileans”.
† 5.1.4 State religion
· Emperor Theodosius I: He issued edicts  that made Christianity the exclusive religion of the state. Anyone who held to any other form of worship would suffer punishment from the state. The Edit of Constantinople  prohibited paganism.
Justinian: He struck paganism by closing the school of philosophy
· Impact: Christianity did raise the moral tone of the society. The dignity of women was given more recognition in the society. Gladitorial shows were eliminated. Slaves were given milder treatment. Roman legislation became more just. But in return for the government’s support of Christianity, it demanded the right to interfere in spiritual and theological matters.
· Drawback: When the church became rich and powerful, corruption crept in. In consideration of everything, it would appear that the mutual support between church and state brought more drawbacks than blessings.
5.2.1 Impact of
· No more persecution: The end of persecutions was immediate. Christians were no longer under the threat; the hope for martyrdom dissipated.
theology: Some Christians were overwhelmed by the favour that the
emperor was pouring on them so church historians, such as Eusebius of Caesarea, developed an “official
theology” which tried to show that
Because the emperors declared themselves as Christians, people were flocking to
the church, including many nominal believers. Some Christians regarded this not
a blessing but rather a great apostasy. Some withdrew to the desert to lead a
life of meditation and asceticism, particularly
· Dangers: Most church leaders saw the new circumstances as offering unexpected opportunities, but also great dangers. The Church Fathers insisted that their ultimate loyalty belonged only to God although they also affirmed their loyalty to the emperor.
† 5.2.2 Practices in the imperial church
on the church:  The
adoption of Christianity as the state religion led to a massive influx of superficial converts from paganism. This resulted in
declining moral standards among Christians and the adoption
of some pagan and idolatrous practices in
churches.  The persecuted
church of the martyrs soon became the persecuting
state church. Legal coercion was used at first against Christian groups deviating
from the mainstream catholic church and later against pagan worship.  As
· Baptism: The normal mode was immersion or pouring. Baptism by dabbing or sprinkling water on the head were practiced in extreme conditions of poor health, deathbed baptisms, or scarcity of water. It became more common after 9th-c in western Europe.
· Sacraments: From the original 2 (baptism and holy communion), the number of sacraments was expanded to 7 by the end of 6th-c, though still unofficially. Augustine was inclined to believe that marriage should be regarded as a sacrament. Cyprian held that penance was vital to the Christian life. With the increased gap between the clergy and the laity, ordination was considered a sacrament. Confirmation and extreme unction came to be considered as having sacramental value in about 400. The development of the doctrine of original sin contributed to the importance of infant baptism. By early 3rd-c, Tertullian and Cyprian considered infant baptism an accepted fact.
· Sacerdotalism: The belief that the substance of the ordinance is efficacious though the priestly celebrant steadily gained ground.
· Cycle of feasts: Easter, originating in the Jewish Passover and commemorating the resurrection of Christ, was the earliest of the festivals. Christmas was later adopted as a Christian festival after purging its pagan elements . Lent, a 40-day period of penitence and restraint on bodily appetites preceding Easter, was then accepted. Epiphany, celebrating the coming of the magi to see Christ, was included. Then, accretions from the Jewish sacred year, the gospel history, and the lives of saints and martyrs led to a steady expansion of the number of holy days in the church calendar.
· Veneration of saints:
o Origin: “Saint” means the holy one. In the NT, all Christians were regarded as saints. Later, it came to be used exclusively for a few pious people who had attained a special degree of holiness by virtue of their works. The veneration of saints grew out of the natural desire to honour those who had died for the faith.
o Paganization: As the pagans had been accustomed to the veneration of their gods and heroes, it was almost natural to substitute the saints for their heroes and to give them semi-divine honours. Gradually, saints were made guardians of cities, patrons of trades, and curers of diseases. The saints and martyrs were effectively made to replace the old pagan gods and goddesses.
o Prayers through saints: Before 4th-c, celebrations at the grave involved only prayers for the repose of the soul of the saint. But by 590, prayers for the saints had become prayer to God through the saints. This was accepted in the Council of Nicea II .
o Relics: Churches were built at tombs of martyrs and saints. Relics were unearthed. Eventually, relics of saints were said to have miraculous powers. Many leaders tried to discourage such a trend but were unable to stop it.
· Veneration of Mary:
o Mother of God: The Nestorian and other christological controversies of 4th-c resulted in the acceptance of Mary as the “Mother of God” and entitled her to special honours.
o Perpetual virginity: Clement, Jerome, and Tertullian ascribed perpetual virginity to Mary. It has no Biblical support.
o Sinlessness: Augustine believed that the mother of the sinless Christ had never committed actual sin.
o Intercessory powers: Her exalted position as Christ’s mother then became the belief in her intercessory powers because it was thought that the Son would be glad to listen to the requests of His mother. A formal invocation to her appeared before 400.
o Head of saints: By mid-5th-c, she was placed at the head of all the saints.
o Feast days: In 5th-c, festivals associated with her sprang up:  Feast of Annunciation (March 25, celebrating the angelic announcement of the birth of a son to her),  Feast of Candlemas (February 2, celebrating her purification after the birth of Christ),  Feast of Assumption (August 15, celebrating her supposed ascension to heaven).
† 5.2.3 Liturgical Developments
worship: For 3 centuries, Christian worship had been simple. They
met in private homes or cemeteries (catacombs). After
The practical union of the church and the state led to the secularization of
the church. The patriarch of
· Images & pictures: As the pagans and barbarians had been used to worshipping images, many church leaders believed that it would be necessary to materialize the liturgy to make God seem more accessible to these worshippers. The veneration of angels, saints, relics, pictures, and statues was a logical outcome of this attitude. Moreover, some churches tried to create an environment familiar to pagans so images and icons were placed inside the church. The Church Fathers tried to make a distinction between reverence (veneration) of these images and the worship of God. But it is doubtful whether this subtle distinction was clear for the ordinary worshippers.
Singing was conducted by a leader to whom the people gave response in song.
Antiphonal singing, in which two separated choirs sing alternately, developed
† 5.2.4 Official theology
of Eusebius (263–339)—He was the bishop of
flattery? Eusebius believed that
Eusebius’ Church History was really
an apology showing that Christianity was the ultimate
goal of human history. He brought together ideas of Justin, Clement of
Alexandria, and Irenaeus about how God prepared philosophy and the Hebrew
Scripture for the arrival of the gospel. The
· Characteristics: The beliefs and emphases of the church were accommodated to fit the new situation.
o Favouring the rich: The Bible affirms that the gospel was first of all good news to the poor, and that the rich had particular difficulty in receiving it. Now, riches came to be seen as signs of divine favour. The church became a church of the powerful.
o Clerical aristocracy: Eusebius described with great joy and pride how the ornate churches were built. But the result of these churches were the evolvement of the liturgy to fit them and the development of a clerical aristocracy far above the common people.
Hope postponed: The Bible frequently
teaches on the future
· Wavering: When the Arian controversy broke out, Eusebius wavered between orthodoxy and Arianism because he never fully understood what was at stake. For him, the peace and unity of the church were of prime importance. At first, he seemed to be inclined towards Arianism. At the Council of Nicea, he took an opposite stance. After the council, he wavered again.
† 5.2.5 Monarchical bishop
· Factors:  The need of leadership in meeting the problems of persecution and heresy was an urgent need which dictated the expansion of the bishop’s power.  The development of the doctrine of apostolic succession and the increasing exaltation of the communion were important factors in the rise of the bishop’s power. The sacraments came to seen as effectual only if they were performed by an accredited minister.
Petrine Theory: The primary argument was
that Christ gave to Peter, presumably the first bishop
In the message in Matthew,
Christ used two words for rock—petros
(masculin) for Peter meaning a stone,
◦ It is also possible that Christ’s use of the word “rock” refers to Peter’s confession of Him as “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
◦ The powers similar to those in Matthew 16 were also conferred on other disciples (John 20:19-23).
◦ Peter made it abundantly clear that not he but Christ was the foundation of the church (First Peter 2:6-8).
Paul had no conception of
Peter’s superior position, for he rebuked him when Peter cooperated with the
Church Fathers: Cyprian and Jerome
defended the position that Christ gave Peter a special rank as the first bishop
Decline of other churches: Some of the 5
important bishops of the church (
† 5.3.1 Origin of monasticism
· Escapism: In times of worldliness and institutionalism, many Christians have renounced society and retired into solitude to achieve personal holiness by contemplation and asceticism apart from the society that they believed to be decadent and doomed. Some also used this as an escape from the harsh realities of life.
· Unwelcomed changes:  While some saw the increase in the numbers in the church as a fulfilment of God’s purpose, many bewailed the moral deterioration of the church and Christian life. Many who came were looking for privilege and position and had little understanding of what a Christian should be. Bishops competed after prestigious positions. The rich and powerful seemed to dominate the life of the church.  The increasing number of pagans and barbarians joining the church also brought many semi-pagan practices.  Growing formalism in worship led some to seek a more individual approach to God through monasticism.
· Christian examples: In early church, some women (referred to as “widows and virgins” in the Bible) chose not to marry and to devote all their time and energy to the work of the church. Later, Origen lived at a subsistent level of extreme asceticism.
· Teachings:  Paul’s words also inspired monasticism. He said that those who chose not to marry had greater freedom to serve the Lord. This preference towards celibacy was strengthened by the expectation of imminent return of the Lord.  Although Gnosticism and its dualism (contrasting body and spirit) had been rejected by the church, its denial of the body still influenced the church. Therefore, for some Christians, in order to live fully in the spirit, it was necessary to subdue and to punish the body.  Classical philosophy also encouraged the subjugation of bodily passions. Stoic philosophy held that passions are the great enemy of true wisdom.
of growth:  Era 1:
The beginning of monasticism was in 4th-c, mainly in
† 5.3.2 Stages of development of monasticism
·  Ascetism: Many Christians practiced asceticism within the church.
·  Solitary (hermitic) monasticism: Some withdrew from the society to live as anchorites or hermits.
·  Followers: The holiness of these hermits attracted others, who would then take up residence in nearby caves. A cloister for common exercises might be built.
·  Communal (cenobitic) monasticism: Organized community life within a monastery appeared.
† 5.3.3 Solitary monasticism
Monks: The word “monk” was derived from
the Greek monachos for “solitary”. A
solitary monk was described as an “anchorite” which meant “withdrawn” or
“fugitive”. The early monks searched for solitude
because society was seen as a temptation. The desert, in particularly in
· Anthony the Great (251–357)—He was the first famous monk, but was perhaps just one of thousands who escaped to the desert. The story of his temptation and struggle with demons became a legend because of the writing of Athanasius. When he was tempted for the pleasures he had left behind, he took up stricter discipline by fasting several days. Later, he was visited by monks who wanted to learn from him. He then lived near his disciples, teaching them about monastic discipline, the love of God, and the wonders of contemplation.
· Fanaticism: Some hermits committed fanatical practices.
◦ One lived buried up to his neck in the ground for several months. He then spent over 35 years on the top of a 60-foot pillar.
◦ Some lived in fields and grazed grass like cattle.
◦ One never undressed or bathed after becoming a hermit.
One wandered naked in the
Growth: By the time of
† 5.3.4 Communal monasticism
· Communal life: The desire by many who withdrew to the desert to learn from an experienced teacher gave rise to a new form of monastic life—communal or cenobite monasticism—a group of monks living together although they still lived in solitude from the world.
Pachomius (286–348)—He went to live with an
old anchorite as his teacher. Based on repeated visions, he built a large
enclosure for a new community of monks [c.320] on the east bank of the
· Hierarchy: The hierarchical order was clearly defined. Each housing unit was headed by a superior whom all the monks in that unit obeyed. The unit superiors had to obey the superior of the monastery. Above all monasteries was Pachomius and his successors who were called abbots. Pachomius also established the custom that each abbot would name his successor. The abbot’s authority was final.
greatest leader of Western monasticism was Benedict of
Nursia (480–547). Shocked by the vice of
† 5.3.5 Spread of monasticism
Factors: In 4th-c, monasticism spread from
· Impact: Monasticism was an ideal for many Christians who believed this to be the model for ecclesiastical officials. It would become an instrument for the charitable and missionary work of the church.
† 5.3.6 Evaluation of monasticism
· No Biblical support: Monasticism is not taught in the Scripture. Quite to the contrary, separation from the world is condemned (John 17:14-16; First Corithians 5:9-11). Christians are to go into the world (Mark 16:15) and be its salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16; 9:10-13).
Monasteries helped to keep scholarship alive
during the Middle Ages when the barbarians invaded the
Missions: Monks became missionaries and won over many tribes to
Christianity. Columba from
· Leaders: Some of the best leaders of the medieval church came from monasteries.
· Drawbacks: But the system also drained off many of the best men and women, and their abilities were lost to the world. Monasticism could also lead to spiritual pride as monks became proud of ascetic acts performed to benefit their own souls. As the monasteries became wealthy because of community thrift of the monks, laziness, greed, and gluttony crept in.
· Centralization of power: Monasticism also aided the concentration of power of the papacy as it was a hierarchical, centralized organization. Their absolute allegiance of monks to the pope made them willing foot soldiers.
 treasure our heritage
While practices in the Roman imperial church are no longer practiced, those traditions, if not unbiblical, should be respected.
 appreciate God’s providence
 avoid past errors
Paganization to today’s worship should be avoided.
 apply our knowledge
Arguments against the absolute power of the pope are important.
 follow past saints
While monasticism is not supported by the Bible, the commitment to live the whole life for God is commendable.
Because of these factors,
Was the behaviour of
o His behaviour was objectionable but understandable. This also points to the importance of discipleship for new Christians.
● What can we learn from Eusebius’ wavering between Arianism and orthodoxy?
o Eusebius valued unity above doctrine. This is the proper position if the disputed doctrine is a non-essential one. But the Arianism was a serious heresy, especially at a time when the foundation of the church was still not solid. The lesson is that a leader will need discernment on what is important. In addition, it is important for leaders to stand firm on his doctrinal position which must be based on serious study of the Bible.
● What were the problems of Eusebius’ official theology? What lessons can we learn from these problems?
o The problems: [a] the gospel for the poor becoming one for the rich, [b] imperial church leading to clerical aristocracy, [c] lessening the hope for the future kingdom of God.
o The lessons: [a] a church could lose its conviction with the change in circumstances, such as forgetting the poor, accommodating secular values, [b] a special class of clerical aristocracy is a deviation from the early church, [c] a church will lose its direction when lacking an emphasis on our eternal hope.
● What were the causes of monasticism?
o It was a reaction to the worldliness of the church. With the joining of the church with the civil authority, the church became too worldly and corrupt. Some Christians wanted to live a life a complete devotion to God and to resist temptations of the world. So they chose to flee from human society and to attempt to dominate the body and its passions.
● What were the characteristics of monasticism? Are these Biblical ideals?
o Monasticism was characterized by the abandonment of all worldly goods, to live a life of prayer and contemplation, to reduce the bodily wants to a minimum (asceticism), to avoid temptations by living away from the society.
o The Bibles tells us to live in the world but not of the world. To live in isolation or in monasteries away from the society is not the Biblical ideal. We are to work and witness for God among other people.
● What lessons relevant for today can we learn from monasticism?
o Monasticism was a reaction to corruptions in the church. It was originated from a desire for a deeper commitment to God. The desire is right but the response is wrong. The lesson is that sometimes reaction could be too radical, so Christians should avoid extremes.
o On the other hand, to live a simple life without the pursuit of luxuries, to pray and contemplate on God and on God’s Word, to avoid temptations are Biblical ideals that all Christians should follow.
Monasticism was perhaps a tool in God’s plan for
preserving an element of purity in the church. Also, in the Middle Ages,
monasteries became the main centres of learning in